Growing up Catholic, this was often what came to mind when I thought of homosexuality: an immoral, ungodly act of sin. The culture and environment I grew up in raised me to believe that the LGBT+ community shouldn’t be accepted and that they will all be sent to hell when they die. You can imagine my frustration around 3rd grade when I developed feelings for the same sex.
I first realized this watching William Levy act as Juan Miguel on Cuidado con el ángel. I didn’t know it yet, but something deep inside me awakened that consisted of lust and attraction. I shoved it away each time it came to mind and focused on God instead, repeating that He will send all gay people to hell. I was scared for my life to accept who I am because of the belief in a painful afterlife and the daily struggle of not being accepted. When that wasn’t enough, I imagined the pain in my mother’s brown eyes as tears rolled down her cheeks. I locked away that part of me for years to come.
8th grade was a pinnacle point for me, as I began self-harming. For months on end, I broke razors out of pencil sharpeners to cut my arms and thighs. Sometimes the cuts were so deep that the bleeding would not stop until hours later. I self-mutilated because I had so much hate for myself and who I was trying not to be. I thought I deserved what I got and that this would help me make up for the fact I am gay. I was at a point of depression in which I didn’t think I would make it to high school alive. The feeling of the metal scathing my thighs brought me about 5 seconds of happiness, which were enough to be a distraction from the real issue in my life.
Eventually, my friends and teachers began to see the marks on my body & I was forced to tell the people closest to me that I hurt myself for pleasure. I started receiving help from family and friends who would constantly check in on me and made sure I was alright. The truth was that I would never be okay as long as I stayed in the closet. My solution was to eliminate religion entirely from my life, cutting my chains loose and allowing me to live unimpeded. Though you can live a happy life as a gay person with religion, this simply was not a lifestyle for me.
Through time and finding my self-worth, I gathered enough confidence to finally tell my bisexual friend that I’m attracted to men. She gave me a long hug and told me that she had already known and reminded me that I’m strong and beautiful. I felt so relieved that somebody understood my position and was there for me when I had issues with my sexuality.
Throughout the following weeks, I began telling classmates that I could trust until it wasn’t a secret anymore. At this point, I’ve become an atheist and now I’m out of the closet and I have never felt freer in my life. I felt like I lifted a giant off my shoulders, and now I could reach the sky. I began taking antidepressants and going to therapy, which helped me immensely and got me through tough times with my social and school life. Despite all I’ve overcome, I didn’t have the courage to admit myself to my mother until the spring of 2017.
On our way home from Target, I broke down in the back seat of my car as I finally told my mother. I was driven by a homophobic comment she had made about a gay couple passing by. I was crying for about 10 minutes until I spewed it out, expecting my mother to swerve the car and get into an accident. Instead, she calmed me down and told me that she had known and that she loved me either way.
Though I was very fortunate to have an understanding parent who loved their children no matter what, many do not receive this when and if they come out of the closet. Especially in less progressive states, homosexuality is considered taboo and is frowned upon. These teachings affect children the most and put fascist theologies inside their vulnerable minds, leading to harassment and violence. According to Bullying Statistics, LGBT teenagers are twice as likely to attempt suicide. To make matters worse, nearly a third of all suicides are linked to sexual orientation harassment. In 2010, 9 out of 10 children were bullied for sexual preference. Things cannot keep going the way they are unless you want it to be your classmate, neighbor or kid that is next to attempt. To our allies, keep supporting us and helping us create an LGBT+ environment where we can coexist. We are thankful for your compassion and decency despite whatever your religion tells you. To the homophobic “community” and everyone in the middle, your words have serious effects on people, especially on children. We are young, vulnerable and are still shaping our opinions for ourselves. Suicide is absolutely no joke and cannot be taken lightly anymore. If you cannot change your ways, the least you could do is keep your mouth shut. You never truly know the people around you and you do not know who you can insult. Stop contributing to the problem and pave the way to the solution.